Why the Therapist’s Children Have No Shoes: A Space Oddity
Posted by Lawrence Rubin, PhD, ABPP on 8/29/18 - 12:22 PM

My family, like any other, has its ups and downs, especially now as we are free-falling somewhere in the middle of Monica McGoldrick’s stage of ‘launching children and moving on’. I’m not exactly sure if our children just aren't on the same launch schedule as my wife and I, or if we have simply failed to supply them with sufficient psychological propellant for their tanks.

In any event, a recent episode in our family’s unfolding narrative culminated with my wife, a social worker by training, texting our seed-sowing, soon-to-be 20-year-old ‘emerging-adult’ daughter a poignant, incisive and heartfelt text. Fearful that her venturing forth would leave family and friends behind, it read simply, “it’s much easier to ignore people and cut them off, than working at repairing relationships.”

Brilliant, I thought. My wife was quite proud, and I of her, for providing our child with yet another foundation stone in the launch pad from which she could eventually free herself from the massive gravitational pull of planet parent (not sure of why the intergalactic metaphors here, but it probably has something to do with encounters with alien life forms- our young-adult children).

We both eagerly awaited our daughter’s response, certain that it would be replete with affection and gratitude for sound advice. What my wife got back was, “Is that a dad quote?!” REALLY, is that a dad quote?!?! Was this a not-so-cryptic attempt to marginalize and diminish my wife? A backhanded insult at me for offering yet another of my unsolicited and perhaps patronizing pieces of parenting?

Mind you, I am a PhD clinical psychologist, with ABPP certification in child and adolescent psychology and a registered play therapist-supervisor. I have street cred with kids, teens and families. People pay me cash money, and those whose lives I have touched seem grateful, at least many of them do.

Which finally brings us around to the mixed metaphor title of this blog post. Parenting is rocky on any planet. And to paraphrase the great Sylvester Stallone from his movie Rocky Balboa, “life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows...it’s a mean and nasty place, and will drop you to your knees.”

So, getting back to the idea of therapists offering advice to their not-so-receptive children. The proverb says, that ‘the cobbler’s children always need new shoes,’ a popular example of the notion of vocational irony. A deep inspection finds this saying has several implications. If the cobbler was really good at his job, his kids wouldn’t need to go barefoot. Or perhaps it means that the cobbler is so busy cobbling for others, that his own children go without. But did anyone ever stop to think that the cobbler’s kids just don’t want to wear their father’s cobbled creations? Maybe the kicks (teen slang for shoes, I am told) are cooler in the cobblery down the street. Or maybe they would rather make their own shoes!

And maybe psychotherapists everywhere, especially those that dare to work with teens and their families, can take a lesson from this humble cobbler of young psyches. Keep your cobbling separate from your parenting, or you might end up with holes in the soles of your relationships. 


File under: A Day in the Life of a Therapist, Musings and Reflections